When Reporting Out on Grantee Capacity Building

Get better at telling grantee capacitybuilding stories. Storytelling is a powerful tool for assessing and publicly showing the value of capacity-building investments. Multiple funders shared, “We could do better at turning existing data — quantitative and qualitative — on capacity-building efforts into comprehensive stories that demonstrate why capacity building is an important investment for grantmakers to make.” As Albert Ruesga, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, put it, “We have folders full of stories like, ‘because of your board development workshop, and because I had a trustee attend this workshop, we are now reviewing board roles.’ Whatever it might be, the stories are legion.”

Foundations often have stories that just need to be better mined. Says Kathy Reich, “We have a grantee that received several million dollars in support from our population and reproductive health program. We’ve given it about $150,000 in Organizational Effectiveness program support over the years. But at a meeting of population funders in India, the CEO of this organization stood up and said that the money she received from Packard was more valuable to her than all of the programmatic grants, because it really enabled her to transform her organization.” Alone, this isn’t sufficient to say “this was a good investment,” but it is a part of a capacitybuilding grant’s story.

Indeed, storytelling is how qualitative data — everything from off-hand comments made in meetings to formal investigative reporting — can be leveraged to show impact in an accessible, conversational form. It benefits the field because peers hear how capacity building has made a difference with your grantees, as well as where you may have experienced challenges. It can also become a way for grantees to reflect on their own capacity-building experiences through a method of assessment that may feel less imposed and intimidating than some other methods.

Communicate assessment findings to grantees and beyond. Foundation evaluation processes have a reputation for being conducted behind closed doors. When foundations make their grantee capacitybuilding results transparent, they inform practice and show impact. Sharing also helps grantees trust that the data is intended to support their learning and advancement.

Thinking about how you’ll engage grantees throughout the assessment process, from the design to what happens with the findings once written, is an important first step. Because capacity building is about improving grantee effectiveness, it’s important to clarify how you intend to use what you find from the assessment: What do you and the grantee expect to do with that information? How can you use it to inform foundation and grantee practice? How can you strengthen the possibilities for funder and grantee learning, especially from something that didn’t work, so that neither the foundation nor grantee staff feel defensive?

Once you’ve figured out how to share capacitybuilding evaluation findings with grantees, you might also consider ways to coordinate with grantees and communicate findings publicly so that others can learn from your experiences.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Supporting Grantee Capacity.